Life-saving losses

Bariatric Surgery Fashion Show puts spotlight on weight-loss winners

More than 300 people came to watch 34 bariatric surgery patients walk the catwalk at the Airport Hilton in Alcoa on Thursday, Dec. 10. It was a day of celebration, with the 36 patients representing a combined weight loss of approximately 3,600 pounds.

The Blount Memorial Weight Management Center, Foothills Weight Loss Specialists and Johnson and Johnson Ethicon Endo-Surgery hosted the Bariatric Surgery Fashion Show.

In December, the Blount Memorial Weight Management Center celebrated their one-thousandth patient, 75,000 pounds lost, and seven years of bariatric surgery through their facility. Models at the fashion show all had the commonality of having had some form of bariatric surgery, including gastric banding, sleeve and bypass procedures.

The 75,000 pounds-lost may seem a meaningless number, but the truth of the surgery’s success was found on the runway, where “fat clothes” were exhibited and life-changes told in losses ranging from 35 pounds to 232.

The models are patients of surgeons Dr. Mark Colquitt and Dr. Jonathan Ray, and the patients thanked the surgeons and the Blount Memorial Weight Management Center throughout the evening. Blount Memorial Weight Management Center bariatric coordinator Dana Bradley said she felt “very honored,” and that it was an “awesome feeling” to see how many lives had been impacted.

Dr. Colquitt said often it is overwhelming to know he had a part in helping people lose dramatic amounts of weight all because he or Ray operate on patients for an average of 90 minutes.

“Then, all of a sudden, they are somebody new because of that. It is almost hard to grasp from a surgeon’s standpoint,” he said.

Gastric bypass patient Jim Lawson has lost 214 pounds since his surgery in September 2008. He says he went from taking 17 pills a day to none, has increased energy and no longer uses a wheelchair.

“If I had not had this surgery, I would not be alive today,” Lawson says. “I looked like walking death, and if I went anywhere, I had to go in a wheelchair. My doctor (family medicine physician Dr. Marye McCroskey) encouraged me for about a year to attend a weight loss surgery seminar at Blount Memorial Hospital. I was totally against having surgery at first, but was going down like the Titanic. I knew I had to do something to stay alive and be with my grandkids.”

Lawson attended a weight loss surgery seminar, where he met Dr. Colquitt, who explained the gastric bypass procedure. After hearing that he could lose at least 200 pounds and be free from diabetes, Lawson was ready to have surgery. “There’s no reason to live with all of the health problems and pain caused by obesity. I am living proof that this surgery can give you back your life.”

Cookie Howell was a gastric banding patient and had surgery in May 2008, which resulted in her losing more than 100 pounds. She said she has always felt good about herself, but wanted to be able to do more. “My goal was to see my grandchildren grow up and to be able to interact more in their lives. I have teenage grandchildren who live close by, so now I am able to spend more time with them driving ‘Grandma’s taxi cab.’”

Howell is a volunteer at Trinity Dental Clinic and is a patient ambassador for the Blount Memorial Weight Management Center. “I also enjoy including a lot of movement in my daily routine. I use the Gravity Strength equipment at the Blount Memorial Wellness Center at Springbrook, and want to try yoga classes soon.”

Melody Helms has already lost 134 pounds through the gastric sleeve procedure she had in March 2009. She is a single mom and says her daughters are her life. Before the surgery, she said she didn’t have the energy to do all that she wanted and is excited that she can now do more with her daughters, like riding bikes.

Helms has a family history of heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure, which all are obesity-related. “My brother was morbidly obese. He died in his sleep at age 40 of a heart attack. He would have done anything to find somewhere like the Weight Management Center. I feel blessed to have found this place. I have a new lease on life.”

Bariatric and weight loss surgery also can provide other benefits for patients struggling with obesity. Four bariatric and weight loss surgery approaches are available:

•Gastric banding - a restrictive procedure that decreases food intake.

•Gastric bypass - a combined restrictive and malabsorptive procedure which restricts both food intake and food absorption.

•Gastric sleeve - a procedure that transforms the stomach into a slender sleeve or tube that creates a pouch where food is held before it passes to the intestines.

•ROSE procedure -- an incision-free, weight-loss option for gastric bypass patients who have regained weight following surgery, which reduces the size of the stomach pouch and stoma to the original post-gastric bypass size

The Blount County center and its bariatric and weight loss surgeons also host regular education seminars in the Blount Memorial Hospital auditorium at 6 p.m. on the second Thursday of the month and at 7 p.m. on the fourth Thursday of the month to discuss the surgical and laparoscopic treatments of obesity with those considering weight loss surgery.

Learn more about surgical weight loss options by attending one of the free seminars that are presented by Colquitt and Ray at Blount Memorial Hospital and other locations in Maryville, Knoxville and throughout the East Tennessee region. Call the Blount Memorial Weight Management Center at 865-977-4673 or toll-free at 866-300-8644 to find the seminar nearest you.

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